Knowing how to build classroom community is one of the key components of a successful school year. Our days can be filled with structured lessons and assessments. But it is crucial to remember that your classroom can be a very special and meaningful place for students. As teachers, we can foster a positive space that students will look forward to being at each day. Here are some classroom community building activities and ideas to implement in your elementary classroom.
What is Classroom Community?
Cultivating relationships with our students is ESSENTIAL. Students should feel valued and connected to not only the teacher, but other students as well.
A classroom community consists of positive relationships, collaboration and discussions, responsibilities, and overall acceptance. When students feel like they belong, they are more than likely to become instantly engaged and active participants of their learning.
Think about it this way: Do you feel more inclined to go to work if you have a boss that constantly encourages you, lifts you up with positive words, and is always there to help? Most likely.
How to Build Classroom Community
A classroom community is something that’s created and nurtured throughout the school year. It definitely does not happen over night. But when it does, it’s truly magical.
#1 – Set Classroom Expectations
Instead of setting classroom rules, we set classroom expectations. Last year, we only had THREE expectations:
Show respect to everyone.
Make smart choices.
Solve your problems.
These three expectations pretty much encompassed every rule I could think of. Students understood the importance of following these expectations in order to maintain a successful classroom environment.
We focused on discussing and breaking down the expectations by thinking about what specific behaviors would fall under each one. While brainstorming expectations together, we created an anchor chart filled with expected behaviors. The students all signed the chart and it was displayed in the classroom all year long.
I don’t have a picture of the chart, but some of the behaviors included: Listen to others before speaking, ask for help when needed, use kind words, and try to solve a problem with words before bringing it up to the teacher’s attention.
We discussed what kinds of problems would fall under the categories mentioned above. We reenacted minor problems such as:
“He doesn’t let me go first!”
“She skipped me in line!”
“I don’t have a pencil!”
Then we discussed some of the possible solutions to these minor problems.
#2 – Create Class Goals
Another great way to get everyone to collaborate is to work together to set class goals. I like meeting with the class at least once a month to discuss our progress as a whole. Have we been slacking on completing our iReady minutes? Have we been checking out books from the library? How are our assessment scores doing?
We reflect on different areas as a whole and set quarterly goals. Here are some examples of the goals we’ve set:
By the end of the quarter, our class will:
Read 60 books
Complete the required 45 minutes of iReady every single week
Complete our homework 4 out of 5 days a week
Complete one act of kindness a day
I’ve been guilty of having a “Data Wall” just because our administration requires it. I fill in the data, but the students have no idea what any of it stands for.
I decided to create whole-group data posters that would instill leadership and foster classroom community. Each week, our leader of the week is in charge of graphing our whole-group assessment average. The rest of the class cheers him/her on. The students are so excited about data and make sure to remind me about our data tracker every week.
Having students rooting for one another is so important when creating a classroom of love and acceptance.
#3 – Host Classroom Discussions
Finding the time to do anything outside of “instruction” during the school day can be extremely hard. You have two math lessons to catch up on, an assessment to debrief, and guided reading groups scheduled for the day. How in the world are you going to fit a classroom discussion in there? We’ve all been there.
I display a prompt on the board twice a week. I saw this idea floating around Instagram for a while and knew I had to start implementing it in my class.
When students walk in, they have a post it already on their desk. They read the prompt on the board and walk up to the board to place their post-it next to it.
Once all students have completed morning work and we are ready to get started for the day, we spend about 3-5 minutes discussing the prompt as a whole.
This is a great time to bond as a class. We share stories, laugh, and BUILD RELATIONSHIPS.
Free Class Discussion Prompts
These class discussion cards are perfect for morning meetings. Build a strong classroom community with this free resource!
more classroom community ideas
I hope you grabbed some new ideas to help you build student relationships and strengthen your classroom community!
This post is part four of the Fundamental Four series, where we tackle the four essential components of a successful school year. Head on over to Courtney’s site at Create Inspire Teach to read all about how she organizes morning meetings!
Did you miss the other posts in the Fundamental Four series? Click below to read more: